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Religion of Prisoners Discussion, Page 2


This document includes newsgroup postings discussing documents that purport to present statistics relating to the religious affiliation of prisoners. An example of such a document is: The results of the Christians vs atheists in prison investigation

As the discussion below makes clear, these particular sets of prisoner religious "statistics" are either very old (dating to 1925) or simply fictitious.

Although the articles being debunked here were written by atheists, it should be pointed out that most atheists are quite opposed to such blatant attempts at propaganda through deception. Furthermore, these prison-related articles do not reflect the level of academic scholarship present in leading atheist/skeptical publications.

The original URL for this file was: http://www.errantskeptics.org/Ancient_Statistics.htm



Subject: Re: Good-bye, Good Riddance 
Date: Fri, 17 September 1999 08:09 AM EDT
From: Kornform
Message-id: <19990917080914.01588.00000213@ng-ch1.aol.com


Arialle: I never said Christians are over-represented. However, if say, 8% of the population is atheistic and only 2 % of them are in prisons, that's under-represented. Kornforn presented this evidence (and I have it somewhere) which was in Free Inquiry, I believe, and it showed that atheists and Jews were under-represented in prisons. Do you still have this, Korn?

K: Here is a copy of what Hypatia SM posted:

Subject: STUDIES: ATHEISTS SUPPLY LESS THAN 1% OF PRISON POPULATIONS
Date: Wed, Mar 24, 1999 2:47 PM
From: Hypatia SM
Message-id: <19990324144750.02274.00000947@ng148.aol.com

STUDIES: ATHEISTS SUPPLY LESS THAN 1% OF PRISON POPULATIONS
by Wayne Aiken, North Carolina Director
AMERICAN ATHEISTS

It's surprising how many people remark to me, "You're an Atheist? You must have no conscience about committing crime then." Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if we examine the population of our prisons, we see a very different picture.

In "The New Criminology," Max D. Schlapp and Edward E. Smith say that two generations of statisticians found that the ratio of convicts without religious training is about 1/10th of 1%. W.T. Root, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, examined 1,916 prisoners and said, "Indifference to religion, due to thought, strengthens character," adding that Unitarians, Agnostics, Atheists and Free-Thinkers were absent from penitentiaries, or nearly so.

During 10 years in Sing-Sing, of those executed for murder 65% were Catholics, 26% Protestants, 6% Hebrew, 2% Pagan, and less than 1/3 of 1% non-religious.

Steiner and Swancara surveyed Canadian prisons and found 1,294 Catholics, 435 Anglicans, 241 Methodists, 135 Baptists, and 1 Unitarian.

Dr. Christian, Superintendent of the N.Y. State Reformatories, checked records of 22,000 prison inmates and found only 4 college graduates. In "Who's Who," 91% were college graduates; Christian commented that "intelligence and knowledge produce right living," and, "crime is the offspring of superstition and ignorance."

Surveyed Massachusetts reformatories found every inmate to be religious.

In Joliet Prison, there were 2,888 Catholics, 1,020 Baptists, 617 Methodists and no prisoners identified as non-religious.

Michigan had 82,000 Baptists and 83,000 Jews in the state population; but in the prisons, there were 22 times as many Baptists as Jews, and 18 times as many Methodists as Jews. In Sing-Sing, there were 1,553 inmates, 855 of them (over half) Catholics, 518 Protestants, 117 Jews, and 8 non-religious.

Steiner first surveyed 27 states and found 19,400 Christians, 5,000 with no preference and only 3 Agnostics (one each in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Illinois). A later, more exhaustive survey found 60,605 Christians, 5,000 Jews, 131 Pagans, 4,000 "no preference," and only 3 Agnostics.

In one 19-state survey, Steiner found 15 non-believers, Spiritualists, Theosophists, Deists, Pantheists and 1 Agnostic among nearly 83,000 inmates. He labeled all 15 as "anti-christians." The Elmira, N.Y. reformatory system overshadowed all others, with nearly 31,000 inmates, including 15,694 Catholics (half) and 10,968 Protestants, 4,000 Jews, 325 refusing to answer, and 0 unbelievers.

In the East, over 64% of inmates are Roman Catholic. Throughout the national prison population, they average 50%. A national census of the general population found Catholics to be about 15% (and they count from the diaper up). Hardly 12% are old enough to commit a crime, and half of these are women. That leaves an adult Catholic population of 6% supplying 50% of the prison population.
[end quote]

Subject: Religion in Prison
Date: Mon, 20 September 1999 12:41 PM EDT
From: Rev Neal


<<STUDIES: ATHEISTS SUPPLY LESS THAN 1% OF PRISON POPULATIONS
by Wayne Aiken, North Carolina Director
AMERICAN ATHEISTS

I remember reading this and posting an answer to it somewhere back in the dim misty recesses of the past. I don't remember what I wrote then, and I didn't save my post, but I DO know what I think now. Here are a few thoughts in response to this article, and what it both does and does not demonstrate:

(a) <<During 10 years in Sing-Sing, of those executed for murder 65% were Catholics, 26% Protestants, 6% Hebrew, 2% Pagan, and less than 1/3 of 1% non-religious.

QUESTION: Which 10 year period? What are the dates of this study and of these figures? Why are there no Muslims in this figure? In 1995, 48% of the prison population was African American, and Black Muslims currently make up better than 25% of the African American Prison Population (DOJ figures 12/31/95), with 21 Masques currently in full-time use in some Federal and State Prisons. A disproportionally large percentage of persons executed in the last 10 years have been African Americans, and this ethnic group has seen a major surge in Muslim membership. If your figures are current, I find it hard to believe that NONE of those executed at Sing-Sing were Black Muslims.

(b) <<Steiner and Swancara surveyed Canadian prisons and found 1,294 Catholics, 435 Anglicans, 241 Methodists, 135 Baptists, and 1 Unitarian.

QUESTION: You have listed no followers of Native American religious traditions, and yet in the United States the DOJ reports 32 Native American religious Lodges; are we to assume, with the large Native Peoples population of Canada, that the Canadians make no provisions for their Native American population and their religious practices?? What about Presbyterians? How about people of other faiths, like Wiccans or Muslims, who are indeed represented in Prisons in the United States even though substantially ignored in your report; are there none in Canada? Also, the United Methodist and British Methodist Churches no longer exist in Canada ... it was merged into the United Church of Canada, along with several other denominations. Hence, these figures are quite probably rather old and, more than likely, reflect religious background preferences and not religious practices.

(c) <<Dr. Christian, Superintendent of the N.Y. State Reformatories, checked records of 22,000 prison inmates and found only 4 college graduates. In "Who's Who," 91% were college graduates; Christian commented that "intelligence and knowledge produce right living," and, "crime is the offspring of superstition and ignorance."

QUESTION: According to DOJ, Bureau of Justice Statistics (Special Report, 6/4/98) the national prison population sports 14.1% college graduates. According to this national figure, there should be -- on average -- 3100 college graduates among those 22,000 prison inmates in NY State Reformatories. 4 out of 22,000 is remarkably low ... so far outside of statistical probability as to leave one rather surprised. Dr.
Christian's conclusions, which he draws, are interesting ... but are reflective of his opinion, not scientific data.

Also, according to the DOJ, Bureau of Justice Statistics (National Census of the Jail Population 12/31/95), the New York Prison System had 66,489 prisoners. Either Dr. Christian isn't counting the entire prison population, or these figures are horribly out of date.

(d) << Surveyed Massachusetts reformatories found every inmate to be religious. In Joliet Prison, there were 2,888 Catholics, 1,020 Baptists, 617 Methodists and no prisoners identified as non-religious.

QUESTION: According to the DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics (National Census of the Jail Population 12/31/95), while 72% affirmed affiliation with religious institutions (determined through answers to the question on "Religious Background" on the Penal entrance form) only 54% of Federal and State Prisoners actually consider themselves religious, and 33% can be confirmed to be practicing their religion. This is demonstrated by attendance records at religious services, which averaged anywhere between 30% and 40%, depending upon the time of year and the institution in question (and who was preaching). These figures are comparable to the national average as establish by the Gallup organization.

Also ... were there no Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Muslims, Jews, Native American religious, or Wiccans at Joliet? According to the DOJ, Joliet is listed as one of the Prisons having a Mosque on its grounds, and an Imam on the Adjunct Chaplain staff. They wouldn't need either if all they had were Catholics and Protestants.

(e) <<Michigan had 82,000 Baptists and 83,000 Jews in the state population; but in the prisons, there were 22 times as many Baptists as Jews, and 18 times as many Methodists as Jews.

QUESTION: that's impressive ... in a state with no Methodists (none are listed in the first clause of the sentence), they still managed to have 18 times as many Methodists than Jews in prison??? I KNOW, I KNOW ... there are Methodists in Michigan. A LOT of Methodists. However, the poor quality of this article can be seen in the shoddy way that these figures are being presented.

(e2) <<In Sing-Sing, there were 1,553 inmates, 855 of them (over half) Catholics, 518 Protestants, 117 Jews, and 8 non-religious.

QUESTION: No Muslims? No Wiccans? No Native Americans? No Eastern Orthodox? No Hindu? Nothing but Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and 8 non-religious? With the Black Muslim Population being 25% of the African American Prison Population nation wide, one would expect at least ONE Muslim at Sing-Sing. Statistically speaking, these figures are looking more and more suspect.

(f) <<Steiner first surveyed 27 states and found 19,400 Christians, 5,000 with no preference and only 3 Agnostics (one each in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Illinois). A later, more exhaustive survey found 60,605 Christians, 5,000 Jews, 131 Pagans, 4,000 "no preference," and only 3 Agnostics.

QUESTION: Again, no Black Muslims made it into this "exhaustive" survey? Perhaps they were under the "no preference" listing?? Please, don't tell me that they're under the "Pagan" listing ... 131 isn't large enough even for the Native American religions, much less the Nation of Islam ... not in a supposedly "exhaustive" survey across at least 27 states. 

Indeed, I find these figures WAY too small given the total prison population in the United States. For example, in an initial survey that is supposed to have covered 27 states, only 19,400 Christians, 5000 without any preference, and 3 Agnostics were found. 3 of the 27 states were apparently Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Illinois, for it is from each of these states that the Agnostics came. However, IN JUST CONNECTICUT, NEW HAMPSHIRE, AND ILLINOIS, not counting the 24 other states that were supposedly in this initial survey, there is a combined prison population of 54,473. I hope the problem is obvious to all. If just 3 of the states included in the initial survey -- 2 of them being quite SMALL states -- actually have more than double the totals given for ALL 27 states in the reference survey, then something is seriously wrong with the survey figures. How current are these figures??? Let us take the larger figures from the more "exhaustive survey" and, let us assume that it is the same 27 state survey group ... States from mostly the Northeast and Midwest, with a few States from other regions thrown in for good measure. JUST in the Northeast and Midwest (21 states, total), the DOJ statistics show a 1995 prison population of 355,224. In other words, this "exhaustive" survey -- which found 69,739 inmates -- somehow managed to MISS a whopping 285,485 (80%) of all the inmates ... they only counted 20% of the prison population? I'm very very sorry, but these figures are next to worthless. They are either poorly researched, or horribly out of date.

(g) <<In one 19-state survey, Stainer found 15 nonbelievers, Spiritualists, Theosophists, Deists, Pantheists and 1 Agnostic among nearly 83,000 inmates.

Which 19 states? New York appears to be one of these 19 states in the survey, and yet New York ALONE had 66,469 prisoners in 1995!

<<He labeled all 15 as "anti-christians." The Elmira, N.Y. reformatory system overshadowed all others, with nearly 31,000 inmates, including 15,694 Catholics (half) and 10,968 Protestants, 4,000 Jews, 325 refusing to answer, and 0 unbelievers.

QUESTION: 31,000 EVEN inmates??? Did they round the numbers up from the 30,987 figure that those numbers add up to?? Elmira has no Black Muslims??? ... with a 48% African American population in our prisons, and with 42% in the Elmira system???? 

<<In the East, over 64% of inmates are Roman Catholic. Throughout the national prison population, they average 50%. A national census of the general population found Catholics to be about 15% (and they count from the diaper up). Hardly 12% are old enough to commit a crime, and half of these are women. That leaves an adult Catholic population of 6% supplying 50% of the prison population.

QUESTION: There are a few things that are remarkably difficult to believe in this above analysis. For instance, the idea that 50% of the prison population is Roman Catholic is particularly hard to believe when one considers that 48% is African American ... African Americans are NOT predominately Roman Catholic. Also, remember that, according to the DOJs own figures, roughly 25% of the African American prison population are members of the Nation of Islam. That should make for a noticeable percentage of the whole. And, yet, Black Muslims make NO appearance in this report. Also, the 15% figure for Roman Catholics in the United States is horribly off. There are more than 60 million Roman Catholics in the United States, which is roughly 24% of the population. Also, why does this study only take into account MALE inmates, and not female inmates as well? Are we really supposed to believe that the half of the RC membership that is female is not going to be capable of committing crimes? This last bit sounds remarkably like a sexist, anti-Catholic diatribe ... and quite anachronistic to say the least.

CONCLUSION:

All of this has lead me to suspect the value of these figures, and certainly any analysis that might be made based upon them. Indeed, so dubious was I of the figures in this article that I spent a while on the Internet trying to trace the article from which these figures were drawn. While I could not find this article on the Internet under the given author, Wayne Aiken, I did find a nearly exact duplicate of this article authored by Dale Clark in ... hold on to yourself ... NOT 1995 ... NOT 1985 ... NOT EVEN 1975 ... but 74 YEARS AGO ... 1925. BIG Oooops. No wonder all of their figures were so horribly off!

I would hope that even Atheists would recognize that 74 year-old figures, such as these, really are not a valid basis for the kinds of conclusions that they have drawn.


Grace and Peace,

Greg+
http://www.gbgm-umc.org/bdumc

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